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African Airlines Exceed Pre-Pandemic Levels Amid Global Challenges

Airlines in the region expect upward growth throughout 2024.

An Ethiopian Boeing 777 rotates out of Washington Dulles. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

The aviation industry encountered unprecedented challenges during the global pandemic, yet African airlines have showcased resilience. According to a report published by the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) on Feb. 12, 2024, January 2024 saw African airlines not only surpass pre-pandemic traffic levels but also project strong growth for the upcoming year.

Steady Recovery

In January 2023, Revenue Passenger Kilometers (RPKs) were 2.06% above the same month’s level in 2019, indicating a robust recovery in passenger demand. Simultaneously, available Seat Kilometers (ASKs) were 7.1% higher, reflecting increased capacity and confidence in air travel.

Despite the pandemic’s lingering effects, AFRAA estimates that African airlines are poised to carry approximately 98 million passengers in 2024, underscoring the industry’s resilience and adaptability. Passengers are gradually returning to the skies, and airlines are adjusting their operations to meet this demand.

In its March 2023 data report, the trade association that brings together airlines from across the African Union, projected that by the end of 2023, total passengers carried by African airlines would reach 85 million, approximately 10 million short of the full year 2019 passenger traffic. This steady increase indicates a positive trajectory for the industry.

Positive Revenue Outlook

Cargo operations also play a crucial role in aviation’s resurgence, with African airlines representing 30.8% of total cargo movement to and from the region in November 2023, totaling 149.6 million Kgs. These operations include transporting essential goods, medical supplies, and e-commerce shipments, contributing to economic stability and growth.

AFRAA reports a positive outlook for airline revenues in 2023, with a narrowing revenue gap compared to 2022. The projected revenue shortfall for African airlines in 2023 is expected to be around US$200 million, an improvement compared to the US$3.5 billion revenue gap observed in 2022. This trend reflects a gradual recovery and stabilization of the industry following pandemic-induced disruptions.

Furthermore, major African airports, including Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Lusaka, Zambia; Cairo, Egypt; Casablanca, Morocco; Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire and Lagos, Nigeria have achieved or surpassed pre-COVID levels of intra-Africa connectivity since December 2022. The total number of intercontinental routes operated by African airlines exceeded pre-COVID levels since October 2022. This achievement, coupled with the resumption of operations to 99.2% of pre-pandemic routes.

Despite positive momentum, African airlines continue to face challenges posed by fluctuating jet fuel prices. The global average jet A-1 price experienced marginal fluctuations, ending the week of Jan. 19, 2023, at US$108.92 per barrel. Managing operational costs remains a priority for airlines as they navigate market uncertainties and maintain financial sustainability.

The African Airlines Association, founded in Accra, Ghana, in 1968, stands as a pivotal force in shaping the aviation landscape across the African continent. Headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, AFRAA boasts a membership of 50 airlines, collectively representing over 85% of total international air traffic within Africa.

Victor Shalton


  • Victor Shalton

    Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, Victor’s love for aviation goes way back to when he was 11-years-old. Living close to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, he developed a love for planes and he even recalls aspiring to be a future airline executive for Kenya Airways. He also has a passion in the arts and loves writing and had his own aviation blog prior to joining AirlineGeeks. He is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business administration at DeKUT and aspiring to make a career in a more aviation-related course.

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